Chris Achilleos is a British illustrator, painter and conceptual artist. Over the past 40 years, he has created some of the best loved fantasy and glamour art and is acknowledged as one of the top fantasy artists in the world.
Christos Achilleos grew up in a rural village near the town of Famagusta in Cyprus; a hot place — perfect for a boy fond of the outdoors. After Chris’s father passed away in the late fifties, his mother moved to London with her four children and Chris began drawing shortly after. When he left school in 1966, he knew he wanted to become a professional artist and attended Hornsey College of Art. There he studied technical illustration and learned about various drawing disciplines, airbrushing and perspective. During his last year at college, Chris became proficient with the airbrush — a skill that proved very useful in his later career as a professional illustrator.
I am constantly on the move, creatively, I have learned to use all kinds of mediums and materials in my work, from airbrushing with inks and acrylics, to watercolour and gouache, to oils. I have even painted with fabric dyes.
Achilleos is best known for his unique interpretation of stunning amazons, epic dragons and paintings inspired by ancient civilizations and mythology. His works have adorned hundreds of fantasy book covers in the seventies and eighties, including novels by Robert E Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Michael Moorcock. He is also well known for the popular graphic style Dr Who illustrations he produced for the original Target Books Dr Who novelisations.
Achilleos worked as a conceptual/costume artist for the adult animation cult movie Heavy Metal and is best know for his famous painting of the heroine Taarna commissioned for the movie poster in 1980. Other movies include the American fantasy film Willow, the historical dramas King Arthur and The Last Legion.
Achilleos’s work is collected in four art books:
(1978) – a collection of fantasy book covers and pin-up art which sold over 100,000 copies worldwide and was translated into four languages.
(1986 / 2009) – a collection of works including Doctor Who, Star Trek, fantasy bookcovers art, science-fiction and pin-ups.
(1988 / 2002) – a fascinating insight into Achilleos’s working methods and techniques, showing many of his working drawings from previous books.
(2004) – a collection of new paintings inspired by Greek mythology, images commissioned for role-playing/computer games and pin-ups.
My pictures vary so much in subject matter, just as much as my techniques and materials do; from slick graphic works to figurative dragons and landscapes. Painting technique and skill is important – with some images demanding very tight detail on a smooth base, some looser, others heavier with a more textured base – but technique alone is not enough to create good work. Most importantly the picture has to be pleasing to the eye, and if it also makes one think, then that’s even better. To me, being a painter is all about learning; each time I finish a picture, I like to think that I’ve learned a little more. There’s so much to learn, I could live ten lifetimes and still not learn it all!
Chris’s approach to his work is summed up by a motto which is written on his drawing board:
Always striving for that unobtainable perfection, that’s what it’s all about.
Chris Achilleos lives and works in London.